Previous Verse Next Verse


And I turned

to consider

wisdom, madness

Go to footnote number

and folly,

Go to footnote number

for what can the man who succeeds the king do except what has already been done?

Go to footnote number


So I turned my attention away from my accomplishments themselves and I reevaluated the way I had gone about doing things to see if those things were done in godly wisdom, or arrogant boasting, or spiritual deficiency, and my conclusion was that there is nothing the king’s successor could do differently even if he tried.



While this word means “madness or insanity,” it comes from a root that means to “praise, to boast, to be arrogant” The idea is that one who praises himself loudly will make others think he is insane. Such boasting is simply not acceptable.

2: “folly”

This word points to the spiritual aspect of things and is the opposite of the word wisdom, which also has spiritual connotations.


This part about the king’s successor seems to imply that his considering of wisdom, madness and folly were not done in a general manner but were tied somehow to the accomplishments he had mentioned up to that point. Therefore, I see this verse as a reiteration of his earlier statements indicating that he did things the right way. He is not talking here about someone who does evil and pays a price; he is talking about someone who did things the right way, who acted morally, attained great wealth and achieved great feats, yet found them to be hollow and less than satisfying. One of the major themes of Ecclesiastes is this: “Don’t be like me, don’t put all your effort into human achievements because that’s not where satisfaction comes from.” We will see shortly what he does say about where satisfaction comes from; it is surprisingly simple, and very down to earth.